[Screen It]

(2002) (Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder) (PG-13)

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Comedy: An unassuming, small town man finds that fame and fortune don't make life better after he inherits $40 billion.
Longfellow Deeds (ADAM SANDLER) is an unassuming pizzeria owner in the little town of Mandrake Falls where he gets along with everyone, including his workers, Murph (PETER DANTE) and Jan (CONCHATA FERRELL), and customers such as Crazy Eyes (STEVE BUSCEMI), a bug-eyed sort with a penchant for odd pizza topping combinations. Always taking the time to say hello or help out those in need, Deeds' big dream in life is that one day, Hallmark will buy one of his greeting card poems.

While waiting for that to happen, Deeds gets a visit from Chuck Cedar (PETER GALLAGHER) and Cecil Anderson (ERICK AVARI), the CEO and legal counsel of Blake Media respectively. It seems that Deeds is the only living heir to owner Preston Blake (HARVE PRESNELL) who recently passed away and left 49% of his company - roughly worth $40 billion - to him.

Soon, Deeds travels to Manhattan to oversee his inheritance and meets Emilio Lopez (JOHN TURTURRO), his late great uncle's butler. He also meets small town school nurse Pam Dawson (WINONA RYDER), completely unaware that she's really TV producer Babe Bennett.

She's working undercover for a tabloid TV program called "Inside Access" and her sleazy boss and host of the program, Mac McGrath (JARED HARRIS), wants her and fellow worker Marty (ALLEN COVERT) to beat out the rest of the media swarm and get the inside scoop on Deeds.

As Deeds inevitably begins falling for Babe who begins to have second thoughts about her ruse when she sees that he's the real deal, he doesn't notice that Cedar is plotting to wrest control of the company from him. From that point on, Deeds must decide whether fame and fortune are worth the price of his integrity and better sense.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
It's funny how one's tastes change throughout life. Whether it's regarding food, clothes, cars or entertainment choices, few things remain constant over the decades as one grows up and then grows old. That's particularly true when it comes to movies.

For instance, films that were once embraced by toddlers and preteens rarely remain on the cinematic menu when one gets older. Probably the most eclectic choices occur during adolescence where such tastes go through the wildest and widest swing as kids turns into young adults.

While all sorts of films are popular during that time, some of the favorites among teen males are those starring comedian turned actor Adam Sandler. Whether the former "Saturday Night Live" star is playing it straight ("The Wedding Singer," "Big Daddy") or sophomoric and/or idiotic ("The Waterboy," "Little Nicky"), adolescent boys seem to crave and eat up the sort of comedic material Sandler and his films offer.

The beauty, of course, is that there will always be new male adolescents coming along to keep the fan base steady. The problem with that, however, is two-fold. For one, such viewers will eventually grow out of the craze, see the light, and suddenly no longer find such material as funny as they once did. The second negative element is that by retreading the same sort of comedy material and either of the character types he's apparently pigeonholed himself into playing, Sandler and his films have become far too redundant, predictable, boring and clearly less funny with each subsequent one.

Such is the case with "Mr. Deeds," the high-paid actor's latest comedic effort that unfortunately tries to be a modern day update of Frank Capra's beloved, Oscar winning and far more successful, enjoyable and intelligent 1936 film, "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town."

Of course, this isn't the first time a classic has been remade, and it clearly won't be the last. Yet, there's no denying such attempts have been done better in the past. That aside, both films feature essentially the same plot. A good-natured, small town guy inherits a lot of money ($40 billion this time compared to the original $20 million - talk about adjusting figures for inflation) and goes to the big city to collect it. There, he finds the people decidedly different than back home, and ends up falling for a local news type who's posing as a sweet girl just to get the inside story on him.

With screenwriter Tim Herlihy ("Little Nicky," "Big Daddy") making sure to include typical Sandler style shenanigans as well as more contemporary material, the specific plot details are obviously different between the two films. The same can be said about the end results. Capra's film played off an obvious sentimental, populist view and earned five Oscar nominations (including Best Picture), winning Best Director for Capra.

With this film - directed by Steven Brill ("Little Nicky," "Heavyweights) -- Capra, star Gary Cooper and probably most everyone else associated with that classic are probably spinning like tops in their final resting places. That's not only because of the unnecessary, uninspired and often sophomoric remake of their film, but also because this effort is so poorly made and, quite simply, so bad.

From start to finish, the effort feels rushed as the story zips along at a breakneck pace. The editing is choppy, the writing uninspired and most everything about the film comes off as strained at best. In addition to the lame retreading of the original film's underlying fish out of water plot, the performances help sink this effort.

Sandler, who's no Gary Cooper and has yet to prove that he can really act, simply plays the same sort of simple, but good-natured character he's done in so many of his other films. In fact, one could probably exchange them with little or no noticeable effect. Unfortunately, that means he feels forced into the Cooper role and neither the character nor Sandler's performance work as presented here.

Playing the Jean Arthur part, Winona Ryder ("Lost Souls," "Autumn in New York") looks pretty, but that's about it as she's rather flat in the role, while Peter Gallagher ("Center Stage," "House on Haunted Hill") and Jared Harris ("Happiness," "I Shot Andy Warhol") can't do anything with their one-dimensional characters.

Granted, none of the parts or performances are supposed to be realistic. Yet, they should at least be funny, charming or both, but they're not (unless you fall into the aforementioned target audience). Even John Turturro ("Collateral Damage," "O Brother, Where Art Thou?") and Steve Buscemi ("Domestic Disturbance," "Ghost World") can't do anything with their roles despite attempts at various running gags (Turturro's character always zipping around from one place to the next and Buscemi's ordering bizarre pizza toping combinations while going for the misdirected, bug-eyed look long ago vacated by the late, great Marty Feldman).

Simply put, if you're a diehard Sandler fan and love his brand of humor where he plays the unassuming but occasionally eruptive comedic sorts you might enjoy what's offered here (as did one - and I mean just one - fellow at our screening). Otherwise, you're likely to have the been there, seen that before reaction to the material that not only feels recycled, but simply doesn't work as presented here. Perhaps "Mr. Deeds" shouldn't have gone to town, or the movies for that matter. This effort rates as just a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed June 12, 2002 / Posted June 28, 2002

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